“He was an irresponsible man. He left her to work two jobs to support her family.” My dad took a bite of his lunch as he spoke about a friend.
“I don’t think things are as simple as you think it is.” I said cautiously.
“What do you mean?” My dad asked.
“This is a world where everything is co-created, we cannot negate the possibility that your friend is also responsible for her own predicament.” I said.
“How could this be her fault? He was the one who was irresponsible, leaving her with no choice.” He insisted.
“I can understand why her kids were having problems with school.” I said.
“What does this have to do with anything?” He asked.
“Well, didn’t you say that you heard her yelling at her son once when he took home the report card?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said.
“She was no less abusive on an emotional level.” I said carefully.
“It was not her fault, he (her ex-husband) didn’t give them any money. He was the one who was irresponsible. I can’t believe her kids would not testify in court against their dad for being such a irresponsible father!” He said.
In the middle of the Chinese restaurant where we were having our lunch, I could no longer control the tears that were flowing down my face. I was beginning to cry and I couldn’t even say a word as I sobbed into my hands. All I could do was mutter a “sorry” as I continued to cry leaving my dad sitting there, dumbfounded about my emotional reaction. “Can’t you see that you were that man?” I said after I regained my composure. “You left us without giving us any money, leaving mom scrambling to find ways to take care of us. Did you understand how sad I became as a child, as a teenager because of the fact that you had repeatedly abandoned us? And now you have the audacity to criticize another man who did the same things you did and expecting his children to testify against him?”
He face fell as he sat there silently. He did not say another word about how awful the other man was for abandoning his family. He had no compassion for her kids failing at school, he thought that her kids simply didn’t work hard enough. But how can he know the struggles of these children who were abandoned by their father and left to deal with a crazy mother who is likely depressed herself? I felt liberated to be able to share my thoughts and feelings in a very vulnerable way. I am lucky to have a father who was willing to listen to me. While he did not apologize for what happened, he didn’t reprimand me for criticizing him — something Chinese kids are not supposed to do to their parents. For that, I am truly grateful.